Donating to Venezuelan Refugees in Peru

gAGCgf4G-Zr7a9eoeHwRAIwP0n0R6G46TAyNaPAY6-YDeZdJq8ufGgLjTBf_JcVkv44PKhzu5PZ0vTswYFAHOc77JyVVcf96oToJssYjtm25kvYXchx77eoRjGoATmdeRVw6xOa4x2oWmlHoVITSi-hfwSWMOUjI7Bh_VhgQfm_UW789gze55H2XNZI recently cleaned out my closet and donated eleven large sacks of clothes and shoes to an NGO that assists Venezuelans in Peru, Union for Venezuelans in Peru. If you want to donate, call the executive director, Martha, 992-824-991, and she will meet you at the Union for Venezuelans in Peru at Avenida Benavides 3082, which is actually located on the Ovalo Higuereta, in Surco. The building is not marked as the Union has not spent money on signage (the employees wore white work shirts with the name of the organization on them). The office is on the third floor but it was not open yet when I made my delivery. The Union for Venezuelans in Peru will also pick up.

When I chatted with Martha, she explained that the refugees are in need of everything as they arrive only with what they can carry in their hands. She said that many are young families. She told us about a family that were happy as they picked up an inflatable mattress. Makes one think.

In the last few years, nearly a million Venezuelan refugees have arrived in Peru. Thirty years ago, Peruvians were fleeing to Venezuela and not the situation is reverse. Peru is currently in the honeymoon phase of this reverse situation and the Peruvians are welcoming the Venezuelans with resident permits and work permits. Many work as taxi drivers, in restaurants, and some sell candy to make a bit of income (I know one shop owner who gives the candy for free the first time around so that the refugee can build a bit of capital — like the Grameen system — although this shop owner will probably not get a Nobel prize. He does it for the humanity of the situation). I have seen Peruvians buy these candies out of an act of charity, much in the vein of “there but for the grace of God, go I.”

mq85phLqAjhl1iHQxC4cx1aN7zgb84xGEJevOLPTPM4-xKS6pK8lDwuoHrH0oT25-SN_OLWQjWGxAzxR0LhpdGbBCoVT2sOEzGZmvywFdL_E1_eUepLKuP-1-ncp2hKTEhrORqjEiEvr26IeH5QYgmR4wZX8WoysG75L-XQ9F4nL2CQFyE-yIdOGdLIn many of the shops and restaurants, the workers are Venezuelans. They have the advantage that they speak the local language. When I was in Port of Spain, many of the workers were Venezuelans (Trinidad is only a few miles off the coast of Venezuela). This proximity means that many Trinis speak Spanish as well. I actually understood the Spanish better than the Trini form of English when in Trinidad.

Here in Lima, due to the influx of Venezuelans, there are more and more Venezuelan eateries. When I lived in Caracas, I developed a taste for arepas and now I can find good ones here as well. I did not get some after the trip to donate clothes. I had enough food for thought.

 

Venezuelan Food and Drink in Venezuela

corn-for-sale-veArepa, arepa, arepa! It got to the point where I craved an arepa every day when in Venezuela. When in Rome. Here are some of the typical Venezuelan foods that I tried.

Arepa: a cornmeal bread used to splice and fill. New versions involve the use of beets and spices. There is a sweet version with cumin. Arepas can be fried or grilled. I liked running it through the toaster a few times.

Tequennos ( double en equals enya): mozzarella cheese sticks served with honey. A bar food.

Empanada: a dumpling usually made of cornmeal filled with shredded fish, cheese, meat, etc. ingredients-ve

Cachapa: corn omelette filled with beans, cheese, meat, etc. cachapa-ve

Chupe: soup, usually chicken broth with potatoes.

Perico: scrambled eggs with tomato and onion. Just like in Colombia.

Parilla: means grill and the Venezuelans love things on the grill.
Soup for breakfast: like the Colombians, the Venezuelans have a soup for breakfast but here it is primarily used as a hangover cure.
Paisa queso: a salty fresh cheese with large holes.
Hallaca (tamale): served mostly around Christmas. Also, at Christmastime, one can get “ham bread” which is a roulade bread made with ham, olives, and cheese.
Casabe: flat cassava bread.
casabe-ve
Cassava (nachos): pronounces with the “vee” sound is a dish of nachos. Casabe with the “bee” sound is a flat bread.

Desechado “shredded”: they do love shredded meat on everything. It’s like meat is a vegetable topping, sort of the way cheese is on every salad in the U.S.

Fresas con crema: strawberries with cream. It’s a thing. Good too.

There are many other types of typical Venezuelan food. But, I mainly heard the mantra of arepas every time I asked about national foods.vino-verano-ve

As for drinks, the fresh juice is fantastic in Venezuela. As is the rum. The Santa Teresa and the Diplomatico brands were both good enough to drink neat, hold the coke (and as most of the Coke is made without sugar, that is practical). There is a form of sangria called “vino verano” or summer wine which is red wine mixed with a soft drink.

 

Eating Street Food in Bogota

Bunuelo, a cheese ball bread.
Bunuelo, a cheese ball bread.

Don’t be afraid. Go for the goods. Bogota’s street food is very easy to try. There’s is everything from fresh juice, fruit salad, bunuelos, empanadas, arepas, hotdogs, sandwiches, coconut, and even breakfast carts where they will fry up an egg and put it in a sliced arepa, sandwich style. Because the tap water in Bogota is drinkable, the street carts are also fairly clean.

Spiralized mango dressed with lime, salt, and pepper.
Spiralized mango dressed with lime, salt, and pepper.

I enjoy the luxury of being able to find, on almost any street corner, a fresh pressed glass of orange juice, or carrot and orange juice, or mandarin juice, or sliced pineapple, or a watermelon slice, or a deep fried yucca dumpling.

A classic sight here in Bogota. In the foreground is a fruit mix with papaya.
A classic sight here in Bogota. In the foreground is a fruit mix with papaya. This lady’s juice was good because she removed the pips.

During Ciclovia, there are lots of stalls offering all kinds of food, though most of it is fruit.

I think they were going to grill chitlins and sausage.
I think they were going to grill chitlins and sausage.

Corferias – The Expo Fair in Bogota

Really fine handicrafts at Corferias market.
Really fine handicrafts at Corferias market.

When I got here and began shopping for local products like leather, glass, and the like, everyone kept telling me the same thing. “Wait till you see Corferias!” They told me I’d be in a shopping tizzy when I got to Corferias. I imagined a rough-around-the-edges Christmas market. I was wrong. Corferias is like an expo showing with artisans from all over the world. It seemed like everything was hand made. Better still, each piece was made with care.

A magnificent hand made head dress.
A magnificent hand made head dress. For $700.

There were at least nine hangar sized buildings with an entire floor selling only jewelry. On the international floor, they had stalls from Turkey, Iran, India, Bolivia, Peru, Pakistan, and so many others (though not Bangladesh). It was truly a world bazaar.

Local culture being celebrated.
Local culture was celebrated. This lady was wearing one of the headgear that they made to entertain children.

The local crafts were high quality and some were a good price while others were very pricey. The place is organized and there are many signs, a mobile bar, food courts, cash machines, rest areas, and a packing and delivery service.

The local flavors dining area before the rush.
The local flavors dining area before the rush.

I enjoyed the local flavors hall where they gave free samples of all sorts of foods. Roast pork at ten in the morning. Why yes! When I went back later to buy some pork, the vendor gave a friendly wave as I waited in the longest line in the hall.

Bolivian nativity scene.
Bolivian nativity scene.

It’s a good thing that this fair is over many days because I got tuckered out and did not see all the stalls. I’ll be back! Corferias is from December 6-18 (I think). Bring money for the entrance fee and shopping!

These arepa plates rotated.
These arepa plates rotated.

Trying the National Dishes of Colombia? Ajiaco, Sancocho, Empanadas, and Arepas

Ajiaco, soup with chicken breast, guasco, rice, corn, and avocado.
Ajiaco, soup with chicken breast, guasco, rice, corn, and avocado.

Every place has it’s national dishes. Here in Colombia, if you ask, they’ll probably mention the two most famous soups: sancocho and ajiaco. Or the empanadas and arepas.

I really like ajiaco because it’s got cream on it and you can add your own rice and avocado (like bacon, avocado makes everything better). The distinctive taste and color of ajiaco is a herb called “guasca” which is translated into English to “gallant soldier” but I’ve never heard anyone call it that. It also has medicinal uses. There are many types of corn in the world. The cob in my soup was different than in the corn in the U.S. The corn that most of the world, outside from the birthplace of corn — the central Americas, eats is the small and sweet variety. This corn was starchier and each kernel was much larger (choclo, like what I’ve had in Peruvian restaurants). The way to eat the cob in the soup is to take the handy skewer, turn the cob, and spear the skewer into the end of the corn. Then it’s easy to bite the kernels off the cob. I’ll write more about the restaurant where I had the ajiaco another time.

Freshly deep fried empanada and salsa.
Freshly deep fried empanada and salsa.

Every country has a dumpling of some sort, sometimes boiled, steamed, or fried. The other day, I had a delicious fried Bogotano empanada. The sauce was surprisingly spicy. Everyone told me that Colombians don’t like spicy food. That may be, but this salsa did not take prisoners. Wowza. Eating these empanadas from a street stall reminded me of the fuchka of Bangladesh.

Inside is rice, beef, and chicken.
Inside is rice, beef, and chicken.

As for the arepa. This one was made of white corn, griddled and brushed with butter. Inside was a center of melted cheese. I didn’t actually like this very much as it had a slightly soured yogurt-like tang to it which I didn’t find all that appealing although I love that flavor in dairy products (more about dairy another time). I’ve had arepas before which were spliced and stuffed like sandwiches but this one was more like a pupusa. Will have to try others along the way.

Arepa, straight up with melted butter.
Arepa, straight up with melted butter.